Amazon Just Patented Emergency-Detecting Headphones

August 2, 2016

11:45 am

Noise-cancelling headphones are a blessing and curse. They’re great because they cancel all noise; they’re terrible because they cancel all noise. It’s easy to imagine the horror movie that could feature a bloodthirsty killer walking up behind someone wearing a pair of sound-blocking headphones. More realistically, driving a car or riding a bike while wearing a pair could lead to a life-threateningly missed car horn or ambulance siren.

Worry no more. Amazon is here to help, with a headphone patent they’ve recently filed. Now, should they successfully develop the tech, a new pair of headphones will be able to recognize important sounds and send them through to the wearer.

The Headphones Could Be Trained to Hear Your Name

Cnet explains:

“A diagram in the patent application filed on July 25, 2014 shows an array of microphones built into the ear pads. I assume those could be used to listen to ambient sounds, similar to the way the Amazon Echo’s Alexa is always aware of vocal prompts spoken around her. The description even talks about training the microphones to listen for a two-part audio command like ‘Hey Justin!'”

…If They’ll Work

Like many patents, there’s a big difference between a few diagrams and an explanation of the theory behind an invention and an actual product that functions as advertised. Still, the headphone patent, filed on July 19, is promising. As Cnet puts it, this could be the “first headphones that can save lives.”

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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